Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘healthcare’ Category

Dr. Watson Finds Bedside Manner

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Back in September of 2011 I mentioned in this blog post that one of Watson’s first jobs outside of playing Jeopardy! was going to be in the healthcare industry.

Well, earlier today WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center today unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs.

These innovations stand alone to help transform the quality and speed of care delivered to patients through individualized, evidence based medicine.

Check out this short video to learn more about how physicians and other medical professionals are able to use IBM’s Watson technology to help them with their medical diagnostic tasks.

The American Cancer Society projects that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone.  Studies suggest that the complexities associated with healthcare have caused one in five health care patients to receive a wrong or incomplete diagnosis.

These statistics, coupled with a data explosion of medical information that is doubling every five years, represents an unprecedented opportunity for the health care industry and next generation cognitive computing systems, to combine forces in new ways to improve how medicine is taught, practiced and paid for.

For more than a year now, IBM has partnered separately with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to train Watson in the areas of oncology and utilization management.

During this time, clinicians and technology experts spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process, analyze and interpret the meaning of complex clinical information using natural language processing, all with the goal of helping to improve health care quality and efficiency.

“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which health care is practiced,” said Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions (see my interview with Manoj at last fall’s InterConnect event in Singapore further down in the post).

“These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industries most pressing challenges.”

Evidence Based Medicine: Addressing Oncology Issues By Quickly Assimilating Massive Amounts Of Medical Information

To date, Watson has ingested more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in the area of oncology research.

Watson has the power to sift through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history, such as medical records and patient outcomes, and provide to physicians evidence based treatment options all in a matter of seconds.

In less than a year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has immersed Watson in the complexities of cancer and the explosion of genetic research which has set the stage for changing care practices for many cancer patients with highly specialized treatments based on their personal genetic tumor type.

Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research, while sharing its profound expertise and experiences in treating hundreds of thousands of patients with cancer.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings. The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” said Craig B.Thompson, M.D., President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

The Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and WESTMED Medical Group are the first two early adopters of the capability. Their oncologists will begin testing the product and providing feedback to WellPoint, IBM and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to improve usability.

Speeding Patient Care Through WellPoint’s Utilization Management Pilot

Throughout WellPoint’s utilization management pilot, Watson absorbed more than 25,000 test case scenarios and 1,500 real-life cases, and gained the ability to interpret the meaning and analyze queries in the context of complex medical data and human and natural language, including doctors notes, patient records, medical annotations and clinical feedback.

In addition, more than 14,700 hours of hands-on training was spent by nurses who meticulously trained Watson. Watson continues to learn while on the job, much like a medical resident, while working with the WellPoint nurses who originally conducted its training.

Watson started processing common, medical procedure requests by providers for members in WellPoint affiliated health plans in December, and was expanded to include five provider offices in the Midwest. Watson will serve as a powerful tool to accelerate the review process between a patient’s physician and their health plan.

“The health care industry must drive transformation through innovation, including harnessing the latest technology that will ultimately benefit the health care consumer,” said Lori Beer, WellPoint’s executive vice president of Specialty Businesses and Information Technology. “We believe that WellPoint’s data, knowledge and extensive provider network, combined with the IBM Watson technology and Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s oncological expertise can drive this transformation.”

Watson-Powered Health Innovations

As a result, IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint are introducing the first commercially based products based on Watson. These innovations represent a breakthrough in how medical professionals can apply advances in analytics and natural language processing to “big data,” combined with the clinical knowledge base, including genomic data, in order to create evidence based decision support systems.

These Watson-based systems are designed to assist doctors, researchers, medical centers, and insurance carriers, and ultimately enhance the quality and speed of care.  The new products include the Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, powered by Watson, in collaboration with IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint.

The WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer, powered by Watson, designed for utilization management in collaboration with WellPoint and IBM.

New Interactive Care Insights for Oncology  

  • The cognitive systems use insights gleaned from the deep experience of Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians to provide individualized treatment options based on patient’s medical information and the synthesis of a vast array of updated and vetted treatment guidelines, and published research.
  • A first of-its-kind Watson-based advisor, available through the cloud, that is expected to assist medical professionals and researchers by helping to identify individualized treatment options for patients with cancer, starting with lung cancer.
  • Provides users with a detailed record of the data and information used to reach the treatment options. Oncologists located anywhere can remotely access detailed treatment options based on updated research that will help them decide how best to care for an individual patient.

New WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer 

  • Delivers the first Watson-based cognitive computing system anticipated to streamline the review processes between a patient’s physician and their health plan, potentially speeding approvals from utilization management professionals, reducing waste and helping ensure evidence-based care is provided.
  • Expected to accelerate accepted testing and treatment by shortening pre-authorization approval time, which means that patients are moving forward with the first crucial step toward treatment more quickly.
  • Analyzes treatment requests and matches them to WellPoint’s medical policies and clinical guidelines to present consistent, evidence-based responses for clinical staff to review, in the anticipation of providing faster, better informed decisions about a patient’s care.
  • WellPoint has deployed Interactive Care Reviewer to a select number of providers in the Midwest, and believes more than 1,600 providers will be using the product by the end of the year.

Watson: Then and Now

The IBM Watson system gained fame by beating human contestants on the television quiz show Jeopardy! almost two years ago. Since that time, Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status,  to a commercial cognitive computing system gaining a 240 percent improvement in system performance,  and a reduction in the system’s physical requirements by 75 percent and can now be run on a single Power 750 server.

The transformational technology, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was developed in IBM’s Research Labs. Using advances in natural language processing and analytics, the Watson technology can process information similar to the way people think, representing a significant shift in the ability for organizations to quickly analyze, understand and respond to vast amounts of Big Data.

The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to improve decision making across a variety of industries from health care, to retail, telecommunications and financial services.

For more information on IBM Watson, please visit www.ibmwatson.com.

You can also follow Watson on Facebook here, and via Twitter at hashtag #IBMWatson.

And below, you can see the aforementioned video where I interviewed IBM Watson general manager Manoj Saxena about Watson’s future at last year’s IBM InterConnect event.

Ooh Ooh That Smell — IBM’s 2012 “5 in 5″: Innovations Of The Senses

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IBM released its annual “5 in 5″ list yesterday, the seventh year in a row whereby IBM scientists identify a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs around the world. This year, the 5 explores innovations that will be underpinnings of the next era of computing, what IBM has described as “the era of cognitive systems.”

This next generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense, and begin to experience the world as it really is, and this year’s predictions focus on one element of the this new era: The ability of computers to mimic the human senses — in their own manner, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

But before you try and spoon-feed your iPad some vanilla yogurt, let’s get more practical.

These new sensing capabilities will help us become more aware, productive, and help us think — but not do our thinking for us.

Rather, cognitive systems will help us see through and navigate complexity, keep up with the speed of information, make more informed decisions, improve our health and standard of living, and break down all kinds of barriers — geographical, language, cost, even accessibility.

Now, on to our five senses.

1) Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone.  Imagine using your smartphone to shop for your wedding dress and being able to feel the satin or silk of the gown, or the lace on the veil, from the surface on the screen. Or to feel the beading and weave of a blanket made by a local artisan half way around the world. In five years, industries like retail will be transformed by the ability to “touch” a product through your mobile device.

IBM scientists are developing applications for the retail, healthcare and other sectors using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric — as a shopper brushes her finger over the image of the item on a device screen. Utilizing the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience: short fast patterns, or longer and stronger strings of vibrations. The vibration pattern will differentiate silk from linen or cotton, helping simulate the physical sensation of actually touching the material.

2) Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousand words. We take some 500 billion photos a year, and 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. But computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information — the actual content of the image — is a mystery.

In the next five years, systems will not only be able to look at and recognize the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, making sense out of it similar to the way a human views and interprets a photographs. In the future, “brain-like” capabilities will let computers analyze features such as color, texture patterns or edge information and extract insights from visual media, having a potentially huge impact on industries ranging from healthcare to retail to agriculture.

But please, no Escher drawings, at least for now…that’s just plain mean.

3) Hearing: Computers will hear what matters.  Ever wish you could make sense of all the sounds around you and be able to understand what’s not being said? Within five years, distributed systems of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies.

It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent. Such a system will “listen” to our surroundings and measure movements, or the stress in a material, to warn us if danger lies ahead.

I’m ever hopeful such systems will be able to “listen” to my golf swing and help me course correct so I can play more target golf!

4) Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter. What if we could make healthy foods taste delicious using a different kind of computing system built for creativity? IBM researchers are developing a computing system that actually experiences flavor, to be used with chefs to create the most tasty and novel recipes. It will break down ingredients to their molecular level and blend the chemistry of food compounds with the psychology behind what flavors and smells humans prefer.

By comparing this with millions of recipes, the system will be able to create new flavor combinations that pair, for example, roasted chestnuts with other foods such as cooked beetroot, fresh caviar, and dry-cured ham.

“Top Tasting Computer Chefs,” anyone?

5) Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell. During the next five years, tiny sensors embedded in your computer or cell phone will detect if you’re coming down with a cold or other illness. By analyzing odors, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in someone’s breath, doctors will have help diagnosing and monitoring the onset of ailments such as liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy by detecting which odors are normal and which are not.

Already, IBM scientists are sensing environment conditions to preserve works of art, and this innovation is starting to be applied to tackle clinical hygiene, one of the biggest healthcare challenges today. In the next five years, IBM technology will “smell” surfaces for disinfectants to determine whether rooms have been sanitized. Using novel wireless mesh networks, data on various chemicals will be gathered and measured by sensors, and continuously learn and adapt to new smells over time.

Watch the video below to listen to IBM scientists describe some of these new innovations and their potential impact on our world.

Written by turbotodd

December 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Watson Goes Back To School

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Im my capacity as a cheerleader for my virtual big brother, IBM’s Watson technology, I’ve received a lot of questions along the way about how does IBM plan to use the technology in industry, and how can we most effectively put Watson to work.

Great questions, and the answer is, it depends.

Yesterday, for example, we announced a new program in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, that will create a collaboration to advance Watson’s use in the medical training field.

The IBM researchers that built Watson are going to work with Cleveland Clinic clinicians, faculty, and medical students to enhance the capabilities of Watson’s Deep Question Answering technology for the area of medicine.

Calling Dr. Watson

Watson’s ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language and quickly process information to piece together evidence for answers can help healthcare decision makers, such as clinicians, nurses and medical students, unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information.

Watson has been gaining knowledge in the field of medicine, and Cleveland Clinic with IBM recognized the opportunity for Watson to interact with medical students to help explore a wide variety of learning challenges facing the medical industry today.

Rather than attempting to memorize everything in text books and medical journals (now acknowledged as an impossible task), students are learning through doing — taking patient case studies, analyzing them, coming up with hypotheses, and then finding and connecting evidence in reference materials and the latest journals to identify diagnoses and treatment options in the context of medical training.

This process of considering multiple medical factors and discovering and evidencing solution paths in large volumes of data reflects the core capabilities of the Watson technology.

Watson Providing Problem-Based Learning Curriculum

Medical students will interact with Watson on challenging cases as part of a problem-based learning curriculum and in hypothetical clinical simulations.

A collaborative learning and training tool utilizing the Watson technology will be available to medical students to assist in their education to learn the process of navigating the latest content, suggesting and considering a variety of hypotheses and finding key evidence to support potential answers, diagnoses and possible treatment options.

“Every day, physicians and scientists around the world add more and more information to what I think of as an ever-expanding, global medical library,” said C. Martin Harris, M.D., Chief Information Officer of Cleveland Clinic. “Cleveland Clinic’s collaboration with IBM is exciting because it offers us the opportunity to teach Watson to ‘think’ in ways that have the potential to make it a powerful tool in medicine. Technology like this can allow us to leverage that medical library to help train our students and also find new ways to address the public health challenges we face today.”

Watson Will Learn From Medical Students

Students will help improve Watson’s language and domain analysis capabilities by judging the evidence it provides and analyzing its answers within the domain of medicine. Through engagement with this education tool and Watson, medical students and Watson will benefit from each other’s strengths and expertise to both learn and improve their collaborative performance.

The collaboration will also focus on leveraging Watson to process an electronic medical record (EMR) based on a deep semantic understanding of the content within an EMR.

The shift is clearly away from memorization and towards critical thinking where medical training programs will help student to use powerful discovery and language analysis tools like Watson to help them evaluate medical case scenarios and find evidence to help them carefully rationalize decisions. The physicians will rely on their own experience and expert critical thinking skills to read the evidence and make the final judgments.

“The practice of medicine is changing and so should the way medical students learn. In the real world, medical case scenarios should rely on people’s ability to quickly find and apply the most relevant knowledge. Finding and evaluating multistep paths through the medical literature is required to identify evidence in support of potential diagnoses and treatment options,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow and Principal Investigator of the Watson project.

Over time, the expectation is that Watson will get “smarter” about medical language and how to assemble good chains of evidence from available content. Students will learn how to focus on critical thinking skills and how to best leverage informational tools like Watson in helping them learn how to diagnose and treat patients.

IBM and Cleveland Clinic will discuss the role of Watson for the future of healthcare and healthcare education this week at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit being held October 29-31, 2012 in Cleveland, OH.

I sat down recently at the IBM InterConnect event in Singapore to conduct a fascinating mid-year employee performance review for IBM’s Watson technology with Watson GM Manoj Saxena.  You can see the fruits of our discussion in the video below.

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: Craig Rhinehart On Predictive Healthcare

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I made it back to Austin late last night, mostly no worse for the wear.

There were a number of key announcements made at Information On Demand 2012 over the course of the past few days in Las Vegas.

One of those that I mentioned in one of my keynote post summaries was IBM Patient Care and Insights, new analytics software based on innovations from IBM Labs that helps healthcare organizations improve patient care and lower operational costs by considering the specific health history of each individual patient.

This is a fascinating new capability with profound implications for healthcare providers.

The new IBM solution provides the core capabilities for devising predictive models of various health conditions, which can be used to identify early intervention opportunities to improve the patient’s outlook by minimizing or avoiding potential health problems.

It features advanced analytics and care management capabilities to help identify early intervention opportunities and coordinate patient care.

Providing Individualized Care

At the core of IBM Patient Care and Insights, developed by IBM’s software, research and services teams, are similarity analytics that help drive smart, individualized care delivery.

Born in IBM Research, IBM similarity analytics is a set of core capabilities and algorithms that allow healthcare professionals to examine thousands of patient characteristics at once — including demographic, social, clinical and financial factors along with unstructured data such as physicians’ notes — to generate personalized evidence and insights, and then provide care according to personalized treatment plans.

By way of example, physicians can make personalized recommendations to improve a patient’s outcome by finding other patients with similar clinical characteristics to see what treatments were most effective or what complications they may have encountered.

They can also perform patient-physician matching so an individual is paired with a doctor that is optimal for a specific condition. With this solution, caregivers can better tap into the collective memory of the care delivery system to uncover new levels of tailored insight or “early identifiers” from historical/long term patient data that enable doctors and others to help manage a patient’s healthcare needs well into the future.

Craig Rhinehart, director for IBM’s ECM Strategy and Market Development organization, sat down with Scott Laningham and I earlier this week to describe the challenges facing health care, and how the IBM Patient Care and Insights can help improve health care by delivering dynamic case-based, patient-centric electronic care plans and population analysis.

Go here for more information on IBM Patient Care and Insights and IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager.

Futbol And Football

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Anybody following the UEFA Champions League semi-finals this week?

If you’re a soccer fan, it’s been a “must-see” week, with Chelsea outing the world-class Barcelona team on a 2nd half lay-up by Fernando Torres in a match earlier this week, and Real Madrid losing to Bayern Munich last night in a heartbreaking 3-1 penalty shoot-out after Bayern had tied Real-Madrid 3-3 in the aggregate.

Bayern, a four-time champion of the Champions League, will now have reached the final for the second time in three seasons, and will take on Chelsea at Allianz Arena May 19.

Of course, if you’re more interested in the football that takes place on this side of the Atlantic (I happen to enjoy both!), then you’ll want to tune in to ESPN this evening at 8 PM EST for the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

The first five projections? Stanford QB Andrew Luck is expected to go to Indianapolis at #1.  #2 is Baylor’s QB Robert Griffin III to the Redskins.  #3 is offensive tackle Matt Kalil from USC, expected to head to the Vikings. #4 looks to be Alabama running back Trent Richardson, expected to be picked up by Cleveland. And bringing in the rear is LSU corner back Morris Claiborne, expected to be taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  But this is all pure speculation, so watch tonight’s first round tidings to know for sure.

Meanwhile, IBM made an important announcement today in the healthcare research field.  It announced that researchers from The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo are using IBM analytics technology to study more than 2,000 genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

As part of the initiative, Researchers will tap into IBM’s analytics technology to develop algorithms for big data containing genomic datasets to uncover critical factors that speed up disease progression in MS patients.  Insights gained from the research will be shared with hundreds of doctors to better tailor individual treatments to slow brain injury, physical disability and cognitive impairments caused by MS.

Using IBM analytics technology, SUNY Buffalo researchers can for the first time explore clinical and patient data to find hidden trends among MS patients by looking at factors such as gender, geography, ethnicity, diet, exercise, sun exposure, and living and working conditions. The big data including medical records, lab results, MRI scans and patient surveys, arrives in various formats and sizes, requiring researchers to spend days making it manageable before they can analyze it.

Using an IBM Netezza analytics appliance with software from IBM business partner, Revolution Analytics, researchers can now analyze all the disparate data in a matter of minutes instead of days, regardless of what type or size it is. The technology automatically consumes and analyzes the data, and makes the results available for further analysis. As a result, researchers can now focus their time on analyzing trends instead of managing data.

MS is a chronic neurological disease for which there is no cure. The disease is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, infectious and autoimmune factors making treatment difficult. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are approximately 400,000 people in the US with MS, and 200 people are diagnosed every week. Worldwide, MS is estimated to affect more than 2.1 million people.

You can learn more about IBM’s Big Data strategy and portfolio here.

Personalizing Cancer Treatment

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I hate cancer.  I really hate it.

I mean really.  Really really really.

I’ve lost more friends and family to cancer than I care to count.  I’ve lost an uncle to cancer. My two aunts. My grandfather.  My grandmother.

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IBM's Watson technology is being put to new use in personalizing cancer treatments in a partnership with world-renowned cancer treatment provider, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In the last year, I’ve lost two good friends, and another one before them, several years ago, all wayyy too early (early 30s to mid 40s).

I hate cancer.

So I was pretty stoked about our announcement yesterday where my virtual brother, as Scott and I recently joked with Watson GM Manoj Saxena, is getting another form of unemployment.

First, there was Watson’s gig at Wellpoint, helping doctors with diagnoses.  Then we learned Watson was heading to work at Citibank to help out on Wall Street.

Now Watson is being put to use at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in an effort to help oncologists obtain detailed diagnostic and treatment options based on updated research that will help them decide how best to care for an individual patient.

MSKCC’s world-renowned oncologists will assist in developing IBM Watson to use a patient’s medical information and synthesize a vast array of continuously updated and vetted treatment guidelines, published research and insights gleaned from the deep experience of MSKCC clinicians to provide those individualized recommendations to doctors. It will also help provide users with a detailed record of the data and evidence used to reach the recommendations?

You can learn more about this new evidence-based approach to cancer treatment in the video below.


Oncology treatment is a complex arena, and yet cancers are the second most common cause of death in the U.S., second only to heart disease.

In fact, the American Cancer Society projects that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year with outcomes varying wildly across the country.

Cancer isn’t a single disease with one footprint of cause, but rather, with some having hundreds of sub-types, each with a different genetic fingerprint.

Significant discoveries in molecular biology and genetics in the past two decades have delivered new insights into cancer biology and strategies for targeting specific molecular alterations in tumors. But in the process, these advances have also ratcheted up the complexity of diagnosing and treating each case.

“This comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace,” said Dr. Mark G. Kris, Chief, Thoracic Oncology Service at MSKCC and one of the clinicians leading the development effort. He noted that 85 percent of patients with cancer are not treated at specialized medical centers and it can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings.

Impressions From SXSW Interactive 2012: Digital Influence Group CEO Glenn Engler On Social Media In Regulated Industries

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When you get the chance to a meet a true veteran of the digital marketing wars, it’s a real pleasure. Why? Because you’ve met a kindred spirit, a fellow warrior, someone who has seen the beast and lived to talk about it.

Glenn Engler, the CEO of Digital Influence Group, is one of those veterans.  At “DIG,” Glenn oversees the agency’s strategic direction and operations and serves as senior advisor to established brands including IBM, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, GE, and a host of other organizations.

Glenn’s also a participant in the social media, particularly with his informative podcast series, “Market Edge,” and his blog, “Random Patterns of Thoughts.”  You can learn a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps, and by the people they hire, and at DIG, they’ve hired some of the best.

Glenn sat down with me in the IBM Future of Social Business lounge to talk specifically about social media in regulated industries, the subject of his panel and an arena rife with both opportunity and landmines.

Of course, turnabout is only fair play — Glenn grilled me about IBM and social business on “Market Edge” in October of last year.

IBM: Helping To Shape The Future Of Medicine

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So I’m curious, anybody out there been to see a doctor recently?

Do you sometimes wonder if you stepped back in time? Filling out the same paperwork over and over and over…and over again?

My own general practitioner just basically kicked me out of his practice — he’s asking for an upfront fee once a year for a special service he’s offering to try and offer “better service” to his clients.

And come to think, all I wanted was a check up once in a while and somewhere to go when the nasty flu hits.

Well, fifty years after IBM and Akron Children’s Hospital launched an ambitious project to build the first computer-based patient records system, why am I not surprised to find that only one percent of hospitals are using electronic records to their full potential — this according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Sure, there are a host of issues to address in dealing with such records, not the least of which are security, privacy, and access. But while we’re debating these pros and cons, an increase of chronic diseases and aging populations around the globe has increased the pressure on healthcare providers to operate more efficiently while providing better care.

Hence, my GP kicking me out of his office unless I’m prepared to pay a $1,600/year membership for his practice (a fee NOT covered by any insurance).

Check out this blog post to read how the CIO of Akron Children’s Hospital explains how overcoming the challenges that confronted healthcare providers a half-century ago remains an elusive goal even today.

How IBM Is Helping

IBM is helping hospitals, insurance companies and healthcare providers use digital information and electronic records to improve patient care through a variety of means. While transforming healthcare is a complex challenge, the hard work of creating a more effective, sustainable system that delivers better service and value to patients has begun.

As mentioned already, and per Tom Ogg’s blog post, global healthcare transformation depends on universal adoption of electronic health records, which are the basic building blocks of healthcare efficiency. IBM has a long history of creating and connecting systems to share patient information.

Health analytics are also going to play a central role in driving real change in the healthcare system by ushering in a new age of smarter decision-making. Healthcare organizations can use analytics to publish metrics on how hospitals are performing; create scorecards for enabling doctors to help chronic patients get better; and change behavior to help doctors and nurses make more intelligent and informed decisions.

IBM also brings deep expertise in applying, integrating and maintaining complex systems. That is coupled with our broad expertise in life sciences, bioinformatics and the full spectrum of healthcare disciplines. Emerging technologies like Watson could further IBM’s ability to help physicians and nurses identify the most effective treatment options for patients and enable new healthcare innovations.

You can learn more about some of these new capabilities in this short video in which IBM healthcare experts Bill Rollow and Lorraine Fernandez explain both the economic and patient benefits of creating a more “horizontal” electronic health information system.

Using Mobile Phones and Social Networks to Fight Non-Communicable Diseases

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Here’s some shocking statistics: According to the World Health Organization, nearly two-thirds of all deaths occur due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which contribute to more than 60 percent of deaths worldwide.

Over the coming decade, some 388 million worldwide will die of one or more chronic illnesses and the cumulative losses in global economic output due to NCDs will total $47 trillion by 2030.

But before you go jump off a tall building, some new solutions developed by university teams could soon be harnessed to help manage the glowing global problem of such NCDs like asthma, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

As part of the NCD Challenge, sponsored by IBM and pharmaceutical maker Novartis, a global competition was held to bring together industry and academia to create innovative, easy-to-use solutions that help fight the human and social burden of NCDs.

Like a social-media enabled support system for pregnant women with gestational diabetes and an advanced smart-phone service, both of which could have tremendous impact in managing diabetes and other diseases.

Developing World Solution: 2Vidas

Winners of the competition were the Hass School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, and ESADE Business School-Universidad Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain.

The developing world solution, from Berkeley, involved “2Vidas,” a pharmacy-based membership program for low- to middle-income pregnant women to address the growing problem of diabetes in Mexico.

The project’s aim is to make a lasting health impact on two lives during a finite period in which women have increased motivation to take better case of themselves for the health of their babies.

The program works by providing pregnant women access to monitoring tools at local pharmacies, support through peer-led sessions, and encouragement via positive SMS messaging that rewards self-management and offers health tips.

The potential economic impact is the ability to save women 58-98% of out-of-pocket monitoring costs, depending on frequency of use, and the health system an average of $110 per enrolled women per year through improved diabetes control — lowering the risk profile of the mother’s pregnancy and the baby’s propensity for NCDs.

2Vidas membership program will deliver an estimated $10.4 million in systemic cost savings and $475,00 in added value creation over five years.

Developed World Solution: Dr. Diabetes

Developed by the ESACE Business School-Universidad Ramon Llull, the Barcelona-based team’s effort, “Dr. Diabetes,” utilizes a handheld device with an application and two cloud servers.

It is a total solution designed to provide diabetes awareness, monitoring, and management to patients with chronic illness, initially for China.

It also provides early awareness to the public and streamlines diabetes management for patients. The solution provides medical data via cloud computing to physicians for accurate diagnosis, and to pharmaceutical companies and hospitals for efficient research and development.

The solution is designed to be scalable to support other NCDs. It is designed to lower the risk of complications, decrease treatment costs to patients by up to 73%, and decrease their hospital visits by 65%.

Winning teams were recognized this week during the NCD Awards Ceremony at IBM headquarters in Armonk, NY, and Novartis headquarters in East Hanover, New Jersey.

People interested in learning more and in joining the conversation on the topic of fighting non-communicable diseases can do so in the People for a Smarter Planet on Facebook, and via Twitter at #NCD.

They can also join in the “Smarter Healthcare” group on LinkedIn.

Live @ Lotusphere 2012: Day 3 General Session: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Father Of The Web

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This morning, Lotusphere 2012 had a very special guest, one whose vision and insight changed the world as we know it, but also my own world, helping create a career path that heretofore didn’t exist.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee graces the audience at Lotusphere 2012 with a brief history of the World Wide Web, and some suggestive comments about its imminent future.

I’m talking about none other than Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web.

And how ironic that Sir Berners-Lee was speaking to the Lotusphere faithful about the open, semantic Web on a day when so many are protesting the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, as it’s come to be known) as a means towards protecting intellectual property online.

(If you’re interested in learning more, Google has put up a landing page to explain their perspective on the legislation, but in the meantime, properties ranging from Wikipedia to BoingBoing have gone dark and silent in protest.)

As for Berners-Lee message, it was both history lesson and reminder from the past that’s what past is prologue. After Vinton Cerf invented TCP/IP to create the “internetwork” of all those computers, it was Berners-Lee who figured out a way to link all those computers in a more user-friendly (through the HTTP protocol via the WWW).

Now, we’re moving ever closer to the Semantic Web, where not only people, but machines, can understand instructions so we’re eliminating even more friction and sharing that much more information.  Berners-Lee seemed to throw a bit of a dart at the siloing of new unstructured data, like certain social networks who have walled off much of their data, but he seems bullish that the continued need to separate data from applications will differentiate the value of that data.

By way of example, Berners-Lee explained that people should be able to look at the same map, on Google Maps for instance, and the separation of the GPS data from the actual application has been what’s facilitated that.

So things that have previously been in those silos, Berners-Lee suggests, will not enable the same value creation should they stay in those silos, and the new value of social business is having people collaborate with all this information and with one another.

Watson, Come Here!

Next on the stage was Manoj Saxeona, general manager of IBM’s recently created Watson Solutions Software Group.

Hard to believe, it’s been a year since Watson beat the best “Jeopardy!” contestants in the world in a widely televised and celebrated match.  Now, Saxeona explained, it was time for Watson to stop playing and get down to work.

Manoj Saxena, the new general manager of Watson's Software Solutions unit at IBM, explains how Watson is quickly moving from play to work, and may even play a role in helping find a cure for cancer.

As Saxeona explained, currently, businesses are dying of thirst in an ocean of data.

Quick, somebody throw me a POWER7 lifeboat!

What most folks didn’t see behind the scenes during the Watson challenge was all the great technology that made Watson possible.

Watson brings together a set of transformational technologies that cultivate the following:

1. An understanding of natural language and human speech.

2) Generation and evaluation of hypothesis for better outcomes.

3. Adaptation and learning from user selections and responses.

The system is built atop a  massively parallel, probabilitistic evidence-based architecture optimized for IBM’s POWER7 processors, so it can process 200 million pieces of information in three seconds, which was the threshold it needed to perform and win at “Jeopardy!”

But what about in your doctor’s office.  Could Watson help your physician narrow a wide field of diagnoses into a very specific condition?

Absolutely.  In fact, medical information is doubling every 5 years, much of which is unstructured.

So for medical diagnostics, Watson can quickly sift through symptoms presented, along with background information like age and other relative demography, medications the patient is taking, and so forth, and then arrive at a narrower list of possible diagnosis.

It doesn’t replace the doctor.  It helps the doctor make a more informed decision.

We’ll just have to wait and see as to Watson’s bedside manners!

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